Mental Health

What men can gain from therapy

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Men are often reluctant to seek therapy. After all, it involves asking for help and talking candidly about one’s emotions, two things that many men are eager to avoid. But men should know that there’s no need to “tough out” whatever they’re going through. There are plenty of professionals out there who are ready and willing to lend an ear.

Greater self-acceptance improves emotional well-being

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Many people struggle with self-acceptance. A lack of self-acceptance can do more than impact your self-esteem: it can actually reduce the amount of gray matter your brain has available to work with. Fortunately, there are several different ways to increase your self-acceptance and, in the process, make real, physical changes in the way your brain works. Give it a try!

Managing your emotions can save your heart

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Phrases like “I almost died of fright” aren’t just hyperbole. The heart and brain are actually intimately connected, and emotions that are strong enough to disrupt the brain’s function can also take a measurable physical toll on the heart. Of course, this means that if you can change your brain’s responses to these emotions, you can get a healthier heart in the process, too. We’ve listed some ways you can get started.

More than sad: Depression affects your ability to think

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

We often think of depression as making someone feel “down,” but it can sometimes show up as cognitive symptoms — for example, trouble with adapting to new information or thinking through a solution to a problem. Researchers recently determined that several common depression medications are not effective at relieving cognitive symptoms. But there are several things people with depression can try to help return themselves to their usual level of cognitive functioning.

Mind over back pain

Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.
Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D., Contributing Editor

If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, it’s only natural to assume you have an injury. But recent research has suggested that our feelings, emotions, and behaviors may have much more to do with chronic back pain than any detectable problem with the spine — and this has just been confirmed by a study in JAMA. Here, we’ve listed what really works to help combat chronic back pain — and what you can do today to rid yourself of it.

Back to school: Learning a new skill can slow cognitive aging

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

You probably know that it’s important to stay physically active as you get older. But it’s just as important to “exercise” your brain. Taking a class is a particularly good way to do this, as learning new skills in a group setting helps keep multiple cognitive skills sharp. We’ve listed tips to help you get started, plus a few resources to help you locate a class near you.

Could lack of sleep trigger a food “addiction”?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

Many people cite a lack of “motivation” or “willpower” as the reason that overweight people can’t control their eating habits. But a wealth of evidence has come to light that obesity is linked to insufficient sleep. Most recently, an experimental study has found that restricted sleep can increase the levels of brain chemicals that make eating pleasurable. Could it be that insufficient sleep makes the brain addicted to the act of eating?

A monthly shot for opioid addiction: An option for some

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

Several long-term treatments can help people overcome opioid addiction. One of them, naltrexone, may help people who have trouble sticking with taking a pill every day. Naltrexone can be offered as a monthly injection called Vivitrol, which has been shown to help more people stay on treatment as compared to the pill form. However, it’s not for everyone, and like all treatments for opioid addiction, it must be used very carefully.

How simply moving benefits your mental health

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. This means that how you feel affects how you move — and that the opposite is true, too. Here, we’ve assembled plenty of evidence that movement — whether it’s aerobic exercise in a gym or a simple meditative walk — is incredibly effective not only for boosting your mood, but for reducing symptoms of many common mental disorders, too.

A twist on the genetic link between Alzheimer’s and heart disease

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Although the two conditions seem unrelated, Alzheimer’s and heart disease actually share a genetic link. People who have a certain gene variant have both a somewhat elevated heart disease risk and a significantly elevated Alzheimer’s risk. Fortunately, a recent study has suggested that when people know they have this variant, they’re more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices that benefit their heart — and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.